Heaps of garbage tower in southern Italy’s legal and illegal dumps, and may even be contributing to cancer and birth defects in the area—but the mafia’s grip on disposal makes it near impossible to fix the problem, the Los Angeles Times reports. “For years the waste has been accumulating, nothing has been done to clean it up, and the consequences are lethal,” says an “eco-mafia” prosecutor.
Factories send their trash to middlemen who pass it on to waste companies in the Campania province, which is under the control of the mob. Toxins from the garbage taint the groundwater, stoking fears of a health crisis. But those who have attempted to stop it face mafia intimidation, or worse, the Times notes. And while some legal action is being taken against the mafiosi, it seems to have little effect, say locals.